Catholic Sexual Ethics: An Unknown Treasure

Champaigne,_Philippe_de_-_Saint_Augustin_-_1645-1650

Every other year I teach a course on Christian sexual ethics. Turns out, 19-year olds are interested in the subject matter, and despite the early-morning schedule the course suffers from remarkably low rates of truancy—and not because of some innate skill of mine, I wager. The class is always enlivening, with arguments crackling back and forth about contraception, divorce, homosexuality, and so forth, and also emotionally draining since many students seek counsel about sexual identity, use of pornography, plans to marry, and struggles with chastity. It’s a great course, and I love teaching it, especially to these amazing students.

The college at which I work is evangelical Protestant in history and ethos, and the students are mostly earnest, decent, devout, and serious about living their faith. At the same time, given the hesitation of so many contemporary pastors to teach, coupled with the unique ethos of American evangelicalism, a good number of the students are under-catechized. They love Jesus, they nurture and care for their faith, and they earnestly seek to live good lives, but many know less about the Faith than they should. Certainly there are exceptions.

Given the gaps in knowledge, many are delighted to learn the Great Tradition, taking to Athanasius, Augustine, and Aquinas with real glee. Friends who teach at Catholic colleges have noted the apparent oddity of how willingly my evangelical students read Aquinas while their own Catholic students … well, not always so much.

As they recover the Tradition, some express disappointment that they had to wait so long to encounter these texts, although they do so, generally, in the flushed excitement of new discovery and opened-horizons, rarely in terms of grievance about their home communities. With the exception of sexual ethics—they’re mad about that.

I’ve noted it before, but it’s more apparent to me this time—they feel that they’ve been robbed. Ripped off. Cheated. That their birthright was squandered and replaced with a mess of pottage. Instead of the Gospel, they were offered shame, silence, or outright silliness, and as a result feel lost and floundering, either as they attempt chastity without really knowing why, or as they jettison Christian teaching as unrealistic, unfair, capricious, and repressive. In either case, they are often alone, receiving very little solid guidance or instruction from those who have their care.

When they encounter the teaching in its richness, say through John Paul II or Christopher Roberts or Alexander Pruss, they ask hard questions, make objections, argue—do all the things that bright and articulate college students do and ought to do—but they also express relief. At last! Here’s what we were hoping for—an explanation, an account—something which took us seriously as persons, as bodies, as sexed, as young, as struggling, and as smart.

Very often, I’m surprised at their embrace of the hard teachings. They’ve been told (mostly) that it’s healthy and normal and necessary to do x, y, and z, and along comes the Faith articulating that they must not do x, y, or z now, but they may never do those things, even once married. And many (not all) are relieved, encouraged, heartened, gladdened! These may be difficult things, but they’re human, noble, lovely, fair, and coherent. More than anything, I suspect, the coherence of the position shines through, for not only does the Christian tradition not proceed from issue to issue in a random and arbitrary way, but it ties sexual morality to the Gospel, human dignity, the meaning of life, and Christ who is the center and meaning of every life and all human history. In other words, Christian sexual ethics becomes less a series of strange and harsh rules, and more a story about dignity, purpose, love, and a relationship with the Creating and Redeeming God revealed in Christ.

This need for coherent meaning—and the sense that they’ve been denied the whole story—is not at all unique to my students; rather, I think most people do not know this. Perhaps they have it in bits and pieces, perhaps they’ve heard it and denied it, but I think it’s far more likely that most people—Catholics, too—have not been told. Perhaps they’ve been given something a little more “palatable,” a little less demanding, but it turns out that the more “relevant” and “contemporary” and “acceptable” the teaching is, the less it matters and the easier it is to cast aside.

What was Chesterton’s great line? “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” True words, but perhaps it is also true that the Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting but judged so difficult it was never taught.

Two thoughts come to mind.

First, teach. Everyone, teach. Parents, educators, catechists, priests—everyone, teach this. Not as hidebound legalism, but as Gospel, as at the heart of the redemptive story. Taught this way, Catholic sexual teaching is not angry or chastising, but lovely, cheerful, and life-giving. Just as we would not (or ought not) proclaim the Gospel sheepishly but as incredible news, so too this. Hard? Perhaps. Challenging to the cultural moment? No doubt. Something worthwhile for humans? Yes. So why the silence?

Second, offering. Like so many of the young, my students are basically alone with this. They’re trying hard, but almost no one expects them to do so, or to succeed. What if, instead, every parish, every family, every community, every couple, every single person—everyone—bore each other’s burdens and let others know about it! What if every Catholic couple offered up their own sexual temptations and struggles for the good of all the 16-year olds in their parish? (And for their priest?) What if all the singles in the community knew that the married also abstained, and not just to avoid having more children, but for them and for their chastity and struggle? What if no one was alone in this, but everyone knew that their parish was actively at work, actively laboring one for the other? And everyone knew that all bore the very same struggle, namely, chastity both in and out of marriage, with Church teaching, in all its difficult claims, accepted, embraced, cherished, suffered, and offered? That seems good to me. And I think it might be something of a small revolution if the young knew they were not being scolded or ignored or expected to fail, but, rather, that everyone in the room was in the very same position they were, and everyone in the room was offering their lives and struggles for them.

Wouldn’t that be something?

It’s not at all unusual for the community to rally around a couple struggling with the sorrows of infertility, and very usual to gather to celebrate a new birth or a pregnancy. Why just those moments? Why shouldn’t our whole embodied life be drawn into the work of the Body as it lives and breathes and nurtures its members? Why do we abandon each other?

Editor’s note: The image above of St. Augustine was painted by Philippe de Champaigne between 1645 and 1650.

R. J. Snell

By

R. J. Snell is Associate Professor of Philosophy and director of the philosophy program at Eastern University where he co-directs the Agora Institute for Civic Virtue and the Common Good. He is the author (with Steve Cone) of Authentic Cosmopolitanism: Love, Sin, and Grace in the Christian University. His new book is The Perspective of Love: Natural Law in a New Mode.

  • The Truth

    Theology of the Body Explained by Christopher West would be a good teaching reference.

    • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

      Please tell me you are not serious. Christopher West (and his Theology of the Body Institute) is one of the weirdest things out there. I have read many of his bizarre pronouncements, and he is to be avoided.

      • Linda P.

        So not true. The Theology of the Body Institute faculty includes Dr. Peter Kreeft, Fr. Timothy Gallagher, Dr. Janet Smith, and Dr. Michael Waldstein among others. The Institute is doing fabulous work, and Christopher West has played an important role, especially in reaching many who have been so wounded in their sexuality by our culture of death.

        • Bob

          Kreeft rocks. Anything he rights, I read.

      • Deacon Ed Peitler

        I couldn’t disagree with you more. West was a pioneer in translating JP II’s ToB for the great unwashed masses of Catholics whose sexual life went with the heathens from the 1960′s on. Oh how easy it is to throw stones.

      • The Truth

        That’s your rebuttal?

        • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

          I am loath to continue this thread, but I will offer one response (out of many I could offer). I once heard West comment on the acceptability of anal intercourse within marriage. I stopped listening to him after this.

          • Guest

            You are not alone in your belief. Many sound Catholics understand your position and agree. The problem is JPII’s addresses on the topic are not easy to read or are a complete “new” theology. Enter these people on the talk circuit and they create this theology and claim it is consistent with Church teaching.

            Not all see it as such.

          • The Truth

            And where did he comment on the acceptability of anal intercourse? I would need the location and the date and time.

            • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

              Huh? You are kidding me, right? I cannot recall exactly when I heard this (I would estimate maybe 6 years ago or so) since West has spoken in my part of the country numerous times. But I assume you know how to read. In “Good News About Sex and Marriage,” West explicitly defends the practice (between married partners) as a form of foreplay.

              • The Truth

                I’m not a “doctor” but I can read. I’ll check out “Good News About Sex and Marriage.” Only hope I can comprehend it, doc.

                • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

                  You defend West without reading him. I merely point out that his views are not TOP SECRET. They are widely known. West’s defense of sodomy (within the confines of marriage, whatever that is supposed to mean) and Janet Smith’s defense of West’s defense of sodomy, have caused waves of debate for years among Catholics (all of good faith, I am sure). But I cannot even stomach the contemplation of such a subject, let alone the “theologizing” about it.

              • AspieCatholicgirl

                I remember reading in the Summa, Aquinas’s mention of (within marriage) sins regarding the “vas”. This would definitely include anal sex.

  • kentgeordie

    I agree so, so, so strongly with all that you say here. Traditional Christian teaching on sexual ethics offers us a way to live a good beautiful life, but for generations now we have lacked the conviction to teach this to the young. What we have offered them is weakminded evasion, what they aspire to is nobility of heart. Let’s not apologise for our values. Let’s proclaim them with pride and joy.

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  • Steven Jonathan

    It is heartbreaking that Christian sexual ethics is rendered mute by the demonic sexual revolution- In my RCIA class- we were told by our teacher-”what do old celibate men know about sex?” After I discovered Theology of the Body and many other wonderful sources on Christian sexual ethics the homecoming began- the lights came on and now I can see clearly the wreckage we are left with in the wake of a sexual typhoon, the aftermath of an utter abandonment of truth concerning the dignity of the human person. My heart breaks doubly for our children, but they are quick to hear, so let us fathers start speaking again.

    Thanks for a thoughtful article Dr. Snell!

  • hombre111

    Excellent. But you are in a non-Catholic college, and you know “Because I said so” doesn’t work. Hence, discussion, disagreement, lively debate. I would like to know if classes honoring these kinds of discussions happen at Ave Maria University, or at Steubenville. Or is it, “shut up and be a faithful son or daughter of the Church?”

    • http://romishgraffiti.wordpress.com/ Scott W.

      Having had to teach young people sexual ethics in the classroom, being able to provide a rational basis for those ethics is important, so I can’t imagine even a fundamentalist college insisting on a “Because I said so” curriculum. There is a difference between lively debate and jamming. But even then I rarely encountered jamming-masquerading-as-honest-questioning because young adults hunger for the Truth and in most cases receive it with joy when it is given to them.

      • slainte

        For 2,000 years “because God said so” in the Bible was sufficient reason to practice morality and ethics in one’s habits and conduct.

        • http://romishgraffiti.wordpress.com/ Scott W.

          That’s true, which is why I didn’t say or even imply that it was insufficient. Rather, as St. Paul says, “always be ready to give a defense of any who ask for it”. The teachings of Our Lord are entirely defensible by both Scripture and Reason.

          • slainte

            Thomas Aquinas would agree with you.
            Hopefully Thomism makes a resounding come back in all Catholic colleges and universities.

        • Bob

          All authoritative teaching comes ultimately from God, the Church is simply the conduit. “Thou shalt not kill”, “thou shalt not steal”, “thou shalt not commit adultery”, “love thy neighbor” like all good children we accept these commands as for our benefit and happiness because why? He is God our Father, our Creator. We accept these, and then all good moral teaching flows.

      • hombre111

        I don’t know if they receive it with joy. But if they are challenged to be honest and thoughtful, they usually can see the beauty in what the Church is saying.

    • Bob

      The Ave Maria and Steubenville students have already had a lifetime of proper catechism and teaching on the fullness of the Truth of Jesus Christ. They have the comfort and peace of knowing by age 19 the Catholic Church is the Church given by Christ the authority to “bind and loose.” And im sure there is some lively debate at Ave Maria and Franciscan.

      The Protestant students did not have the same benefits and blessings until probably college of this fullness found in the Church. But greatly thirst for this Truth that they have now discovered which much make for some fantastic discussions in Professor Schnell’s classroom.

      But as always with you, hombre111, nice try at a backhanded shot at two incredible Catholic institutions such as Ave Maria and Franciscan.

    • Guest

      Oh please. You can go onto the EWTN library and read papers, like from the year 1927, that give explicit and deep philosophical reasons for sexual teachings. The Catholic faith has had a long and deep intellectual foundation.

      The silly rap that we read so often regarding these issues are ideology and ignorance from those with an agenda.

      • hombre111

        I am not saying the Church’s teaching on sexuality is not beautiful. But I am saying its approach has been authoritarian, without much input from the people who live its reality every day: Your ordinary married Catholic.

        • http://romishgraffiti.wordpress.com/ Scott W.

          Nothing wrong with authoritarian if the authority is legitimate and true.

          • Guest

            I think this discussion shows why the teachings are far more popular with Evangelicals than with cradle Catholics. Evangelicals believe God is authoritarian and are comparatively unconcerned about His reasonableness. Catholics expect God to be reasonable.

            hombre111 is right, the Church’s approach HAS been authoritarian. This is not to say the teaching is wrong or unreasonable, but over the past 50 years, the discussion has been dominated by issues of Church authority far more than the teaching itself. Many Catholics reject the idea of an arbitrary authoritarian Church and never get to the substance of what the Church is teaching.

            The other problem I see is the overly sunny and sometimes Pollyannaish approach to what is in reality a very difficult teaching. Some Catholic TOB promoters are selling, essentially, a “prosperity gospel” of sex. Once again, many Catholics aren’t buying it.

            By any chance, Scott, are you an Evangelical convert?

            • TomD

              “Catholics expect God to be reasonable.” They (we) do? Just, merciful, kind, loving, demanding, even . . . gasp . . . judgmental. Most certainly. But, reasonable? God is many things, but, I am not sure that reasonable is one of them.

              As for “. . . an arbitrary authoritarian Church . . .,” there is, ultimately, nothing arbitrary about what the Church teaches. What it teaches. For example, and to pick one of the most controversial
              teachings today, read Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae. You may strongly disagree with it, both the reasoning and the conclusions, but no fair minded person would consider the teaching arbitrary.

            • Adam__Baum

              Some Catholics expect God to be reasonable, some expect “reasonable” to mean permissive. Then again, some expect God to be God.

          • hombre111

            During the 1800′s, legitimate and true authority was against democracy, freedom of speech, and religious freedom. A pope favored the death penalty. Pope John Paul taught differently about all these things.

          • hombre111

            Just say, we screwed up guys. This being infallible in pronouncements about morality based on natural law is a lot harder than we thought.

        • Adam__Baum

          Now what’s that question? What does a celebate old man know about “your ordinary married Catholic?

          • m

            Who do you think writes and communicates Church doctrine on the issue? Duh!

            • Adam__Baum

              That was sarcasm.
              Hombre111 has in numerous previous screeds communicated a certain latitudarianism on sexual matters, outside pornography.
              If you took that as consorting with libertines, I didn’t make my sarcasm clear enough.

          • hombre111

            Exactly. Even a celibate old man like Pope John Paul II.

            • Adam__Baum

              You are late on this, read my response to “m”. I find it amusing you consider yourself above that sort of criticism, just because, outside of pornography, you are rather permissive on sexual matters. John Paul was man, not impeccable, because no one is afflicted by sin, but he was a great man, who helped vanquish a vile evil and will be a Saint, so perhaps you could aspire to walk in his shadow?

        • TomD

          The Church’s teaching on sexuality, if by teaching you primarily mean doctrine, has always been, is, and forever will be, based on God’s Revelation, and not on “. . . input from the people who live its reality every day.” When the Apostles went from community to community teaching the Gospel, including sexual morality and ethics, I’m pretty sure that they didn’t seek input from people to decide what to teach.

          Pastoral sensitivity to the realities of daily life, a necessary and primary element of the mission of the Church, must never compromise the core teachings of the Church.

          The tendency toward “authoritarianism” has been intensified, in no small measure, by those who relentlessly refuse to acknowledge that the source of the Church’s teaching is Revelation and Tradition and not their personal wishes, feelings, or the desires of the times.

          • Deacon Ed Peitler

            You express what is rather uncommon these days: common sense. You must remember too that the generation that came of age from 1960 to present is “anti-authority.” They are against any authority outside themselves. They have been led to believe that conscience is to be equated with their being the final arbiter of all that is right and wrong. It just that sticky Adam and Eve thing that keep cropping up.

          • hombre111

            Much of the Church’s teaching on sexuality is based on Natural Law, which is applied reason deduced from undeniable truths, such as “Do the good.” Over the centuries, the Church has said some badly mistaken things based on Natural Law, most notably, fear of democracy, slavery, and the inferiority of women.
            As I have said at various times, applied reason is great as long as: 1) There are no new facts which cast doubt on the original conclusion. 2) Somebody hasn’t come along with better logic. 3) Someone is not speaking from a better perspective. 4) There is no more adequate solution.
            And so, referring to #4 above, a married couple is in a much better place to understand the sexuality included in their sacrament than a celibate, even a saint, who has no experience of this reality in all of its complications. When will the celibates who rule the Church talk to the married people who, guided by the Spirit, are trying to live their sacrament? Until they do, their arguments will be convincing only to the convinced.

            • fredx2

              :fear of democracy, slavery, and the inferiority of women”
              As to fear of democracy, if you understand what was going on, they were not afraid of democracy as we know it, they were afraid of something more akin to the French revolution – that is, a wild uncontrollable outburst of populism that ends up with a lot of people getting killed.
              As to slavery, there is no better subject where the church is unfairly maligned. The term “slavery” for many thousands of years included indentured servitude, prisoners of war etc. any instance where one worked for another without pay.
              As a result, the church is condemned for not “categorically denoucing slavery” But in fact, they would have had to denounce indentured servitutude which was way that many advanced themselves and learned new trades, and prisoners of war would have been killed rather than taken captive in many places if they could not have been made slaves. As soon as that thing that we consider to be slavery – that is, racial slavery appeared, the Popes immediately condemned it, calling it “:unjust slavery”
              Futhermore it is claimed that clergy held slaves in the new world etc, and these claims are correct. But what is not understood is hta the “clergy” in many cases were people not chosen by the Pope or bishops, but were chosen by the King and actually were more akin to governmental employees rather than clergy as we think of them.
              As for the inferiority of women, I have no idea what you are talking about. Women tended to be much better treated in Christian than in pagan societies.

              • hombre111

                Spin, spin, spin is still spin.

                • John200

                  Of course — Why don’t you stop making yourself dizzy?

                • Michael TX

                  hombre111,
                  I realize you may not be watching here anymore but if you are, responding with “spin, spin, spin” is not a response. It is a dogma from yourself. So, I would hope a professor would seek to profess more than his own authority with an actual response. I don’t think that is to much to ask. Otherwise rather than saying its just “spin” respond with the possibility that you could be wrong about your assessment.

        • Susan Quinn

          Actually John Paul II’s Theology of the Body 100% grew out of his experience in Poland with MARRIED young Catholic couples. They LOVED how he articulated what they KNEW TO BE TRUE BY THEIR OWN EXPERIENCE. Do a little research before making stuff up.

          • hombre111

            If you actually read the huge volume containing all the Theology of the Body material, you surely read the long introduction which explored the roots of Pope John Paul’s thought, sketching as most important, the role of St. John of the Cross. A celibate appealing to the thought of a celibate as he tries to explain for married people the significance of sex in their lives. Don’t get me wrong. I think Pope John Paul said some memorable and beautiful things worthy of meditation. But married people need to add to this discussion. A young campus minister listening to young married couples is not really an adequate base for such thoughts. I remember my own young campus minister days, when I thought I knew everything. I want to hear from long time married couples sharing the richness of their lives.

    • Adam__Baum

      “Because YOU said so” would carry even less weight. What a fraud you are, rebelling at everything, promoting noxious prejudices, but continuing to cash the checks.

    • cestusdei

      I think it is Catholics who hear “shut up” far more often at the behest of liberal profs.

      • hombre111

        I have taken post-graduate courses from many a liberal prof. Never heard one of them say shut up. They encouraged questions. They did not punish doubt. They were respectful and thoughtful and asked to be the same.

        • Adam__Baum

          “I have taken post-graduate courses from many a liberal prof.”
          I know I’m shocked.

          • Bob

            Chuckle..!

            Sorry, hombre111, no offense, but that is pretty funny…!

            Hombre111…..what prof “punishes doubt??” C’mon, man……

        • cestusdei

          Oh they say it. You get enough C’s and you get the message.

          • hombre111

            I was a scripture prof. I gave A’s to anyone who did the work, not to people who agreed with me.

            • cestusdei

              Every liberal prof I ever had penalized you for disagreement. I can’t think of one that didn’t and I had many.

              • hombre111

                With me, it depended on whether or not you could show that you had mastered and understood the material, even if you disagreed. And if you did disagree, I expected to see some scholarly sources to back you up. Did you offer those sources? Then you did not know how to live in the world of higher education.

                • Adam__Baum

                  Define “scholarly”.

                • cestusdei

                  Go to a class where the prof doesn’t know you. Pick a nice class on Womyn’s studies. Then talk about how homosexuality is utterly wrong. Let us know your grade.

            • Art Deco

              Someone hired you to teach? That is troubling.

          • OLO101

            Or maybe you were just a really bad student?

    • Slainte

      Dialogue suggests that objective truth (in morality or ethics) can be compromised by consensus or majority vote. More than one pope said No when modernists proposed this “evolutionary” strategy.

      • Bob

        Pope Paul VI…….almost 45 years later, a prophet as far as the train wreck that is called contraception in our society.

      • Rob

        I disagree. I believe that dialogue can have as its goal objective truth. There is such a thing as constructive dialogue. It is also true that many who call for dialogue or enter into dialogue today, do so with presuppositions of relativism – but that need not be the case.

        Dialogue itself is not the problem. Relativism is.

        • Adam__Baum

          Dialogue to some people means endless dissent.

        • slainte

          If the church as holder of the fullness of objective truth is engaged in a dialogue to teach truth to its interlocutor, then there is no issue.

          But more often than not, the Church will discover that it’s interlocutor seeks, not the path to truth, but instead to exact concessions from the deposit of faith as a consequence of the dialogue. In the latter instance, the Church should decline to accept error or partial truths for any perceived positive end (ie., Christian unity). The latter position may promote relativism.

    • TomD

      Do you mean the “. . . discussion, disagreement, lively debate . . .” recently demonstrated at Brown University, where NY City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was literally unable to speak due to student “protest?” After a half-hour of continuous verbal disruption, the event was finally ended by administrators. And this was not in a classroom setting, it was a prominently conducted student lecture forum for the entire university community . . . and a complete disgrace to the word liberal.

      I’d venture to guess that the “because-I-said-so” and shut-up-and-conform-to-our-ideology mindset is much more prominent, and openly active, on the Left, not on the Right.

    • Beth

      Shame on you, Fr. Hombre! Shame on you for your detraction of two faithful Catholic universities. If you really are a priest, you, of all people, should know better. Shame, shame, shame!

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  • Guest

    “They’ve been told (mostly) that it’s healthy and normal and necessary to do x, y, and z, and along comes the Faith articulating that they must not do x, y, or z now, but they may never do those things, even once married. And many (not all) are relieved, encouraged, heartened, gladdened!”

    Which is something I cannot understand in the slightest.

    Perhaps this is because I avoided the extremes of both Evangelical “Purity Culture” as well as the promiscuous lifestyle promoted by the secular society, but the feeling I got when presented with Catholic sexual ethics was hardly relieving or gladdening. It was simply a list of things that we must never do, whether we enjoyed them or not.

    I understand the Church’s teaching and the logic behind it, but it is hardly a joy—more like a command to eat your vegetables and skip dessert.

    • Guest

      Let me ask a question. Do you really think the teachings are simply a list of things conjured up to prohibit you from having fun? I mean really? You think it is that shallow?

      What I mostly find with these topics are that people cannot stand to have an unfulfilled desire. They rarely go deeper than the desire as in I want what I want. That is not really leading an examined life.

      I would hope so-called college level education these days is not as shallow as I fear it is.

      • Guest

        I understand the logic of eating vegetables and skipping dessert (perhaps a better analogy would be eating fruit instead of dessert)—fruit and vegetables are healthy and nutritious, dessert has no nutritional value and is quite bad for you.

        What I cannot understand is being “relieved, encouraged, heartened, gladdened” at being told that dessert is off-limits.

        • Guest

          I cannot follow the analogy as it is flawed. It is not that you cannot eat dessert or that you should be gladdened by that. It is that you cannot take crack, receive illicit pleasure, and then claim it is good and reasonable.

          • Guest

            Whichever crystalline white substance is the best analogy aside, “relieved, encouraged, heartened, gladdened” are not the words I would not use to describe a response to being told that any enjoyable activity is off limits.

            “Resigned” or “accepting”, perhaps, but not “relieved” or “gladdened”. The Church’s teaching is a “no”—a “no” for our own good—but a “no” nonetheless.

            I’m not understanding where the “relief” is coming from, unless these students came from a very repressive background.

            • Rob B.

              Perhaps they are relieved to hear that they don’t have to have sex in order to be considered normal. The prevailing culture is, in essence, saying: “If you don’t want to have sex before marriage, then there is something very wrong with you.”

              Just a thought. . .

              • Guest

                Then perhaps this is what I don’t understand. When I was a teen, there was a lot of fear about HIV/AIDS and, therefore, less pressure to have sex from the culture. Even many secular discussions of sex were very fear-based.

                • Rob B.

                  I remember those days too. What I recall, however, was the pressure to have “safe sex.” The message was that it was completely normal to have sex as a teen, but you needed to be “safe” when you did so. The idea of abstinence until marriage was never really widely promoted as a viable alternative.

            • Guest

              The problem is not pleasure but the antecedent action that is the problem. Taking please in illicit acts is slavery.

            • Mavin

              Maybe the relief is from women? (only half joking) But it could also be from having been told that certain sexual activities are normal, good and healthy and they didn’t feel comfortable with them so felt maybe they had something wrong with them? or their partner either before or after marriage expected/excepted certain types of “intimacy” as the norm, so again the one who was not comfortable with this type of sexual activity felt out of synch, were considered weird by their spouse???? I never went to college, am not a religious and I thank you all in advance for putting up with my unintellectual post, but I have been married for 32 years and speak these thoughts from experience, perhaps “too much information”, but it is the only way I can give credence to what I have said. And thankfully I can say that attitude was in our early years of marriage (perhaps God removed that “thorn” from my side?) but I have to say that it had a great effect on my feeling of “self-worth”, leaving me feeling like I was weird, naive, not “cool”…

    • cestusdei

      You haven’t studied the theology of the body.

    • Deacon Ed Peitler

      I this is true, you have never experienced the freedom that comes with living as God intended from the beginning. That is true joy.

    • AspieCatholicgirl

      Maybe the relief is relief because of having knowledge, relief at being free of the agonising back and forth of “is this okay or is it wrong?”
      Or maybe it is because they already had such views and are relieved to have the ecouragement of a good teacher, encouragement which will make it easier to follow God’s law.

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  • Diego Fernando Ramos Flor

    I would really love to have a course like that available online, on platforms like coursera or miriadax.

    • Deacon Ed Peitler

      I agree. Don’t keep this syllabus to yourself. Share it with Catholics who are dying on the vine of pagan sexual ethics.

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  • dollface

    You have no idea how close your post is to my prayers. Should I tell? I always keep all these trials inside never wearing my emotions on my sleeve, but it might be the absence of expressing complex emotions that has hindered my ability to communicate and inturn inflicting an assumed false accusation onto myself. And I have grown extremely angry because of miscommunication! So for the past 2 months I have been praying to Saint Raphael and insist he will help with the choice of a marriage partner. Also done several novenas to Saint Jude. Well today after leaving Saint Augustine’s this entanglement arrived, within a minute and to call it a coincidence, would be far from accurate. It is not my intention to negate your article, but let you know the 25th of each month when it was posted it always significant to me, sincerely thankful.

  • TCL

    I think CS Lewis said once that the devil is happy to cure our fever if he can give us cancer. Here’s one young married woman who relates to this article and embraces Church teaching on sexuality. I too felt like I had been robbed. I was a bit upset, actually, when I learned there were people within the Church who were trying to change it. Before I was able to embrace it whole-heartedly though, I had to repent and go through some tough self-examination. In other words, I had a conversion. But, now I understand! And it’s too good to be kept to ourselves.

  • Tony

    Not surprising that the fine young people at Eastern are receptive to the Church’s teaching. I’m growing more certain by the day that in thirty years the only people with whom you will be able to have a decent conversation will be people who have come from a classical Catholic or a classical Evangelical background. Everybody else will say, “Homer who?” and “Virgil who?” and “Milton who?”

  • Lyn Mettler

    You mention Christopher West and Pope John Paul II in your article and I think a wonderful new writer for your students would be Emily Stimpson. She’s just released a book on the Theology of the Body in every day life that I’m currently reading called “These Beautiful Bones” and I think it would be a great supplement to your teaching that your students would likely enjoy. The book is amazingly written and she examines how to care for the body, our spiritual home on earth, in day to day activities besides those in the bedroom. It can show them that the reasoning for the sexual parts of the theology of the body also applies universally in life. http://j.mp/IhyoSD

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